Last Sunday in San Francisco, Jack took me to a legendary church, Glide, situated in the heart of the Tenderloin, a district rife with poverty and homelessness. We went early on the morning of his mother’s memorial, to be uplifted by the fabulous music, and to share the inspiration of being at this historic community. Glide was the first church in the country to celebrate LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex) people, practicing “radical inclusivity” of folks pushed to the margins of our society; addicts, homeless people, sex workers, the elderly, the hungry, and/or mentally ill – everyone is warmly welcomed. Volunteers serve 1,000,000 free meals a year and the line winds around the block! It truly feels like Dr. Martin Luther King’s beloved community come to life.
Radical inclusivity was the hallmark of the Buddha’s teaching, too, thousands of years ago. From the “Untouchable” caste to widows, courtesans, convicts — all those divided from society, discriminated, disinherited – if you wanted a new life of practicing mindfulness together, you were welcome to join. The Buddha referred to everyone in his sangha (community) as “sons and daughters of noble family…” Everyone was encouraged to be mindful, honest and real; to tell the truth about their lives and their spiritual practice without shame.
I was deeply moved by the whole morning at Glide and the resonance with the ancient teachings we love. I wish all of you had been there with me to witness the powerful celebration of social justice and activism with service and spirituality! Playing above the chorus and the band at Glide, above the leaders giving their dharma talks, was a beautiful slide show with haunting photos of veterans & their families in honor of Memorial Day. I feel grateful InsightLA gets to be part of the solution through our work at our local VA hospitals. I hope that by working together, we can be leaders bringing mindfulness practice to support social justice work in our community and serve an ever-widening swath of the community where we live.
Image Credit: T. Goodman